In 2014, San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) introduced a new strategic technology plan, Vision 2025: Building a Digital District. This plan sought to "redefine the learning experience for students" and transform classrooms into digitally rich, flexible, and personalized learning spaces that enable students to better reach the competencies laid out in the SFUSD Graduate Profile. 

The district outlined several foundational steps for reaching this ambitious goal, including a focus on digital literacy and citizenship, where teachers would be provided with the professional development and tools they need to support students to function successfully in and beyond their communities, as global, local, and digital citizens.


  • No. of students: 53,855
  • No. of schools: 133
  • Ethnicity of student body:
    • African American: 7%
    • Asian: 35%
    • Filipino: 5%
    • Hispanic/Latino: 27%
    • Multiracial (not Hispanic): 5%
    • White: 15%
  • Economically disadvantaged students: 55%
  • English-language learners: 28%


Assess needs 

SFUSD recognized several distinct needs related to technology and digital citizenship, needs that cut across stakeholder groups. First, students needed explicit instruction and support to face the challenges of an interconnected, digital world. Challenges included situations involving cyberbullying and digital drama, decisions and actions online that negatively affect students' current (and future) reputations, and using devices and digital media in ways that are unhealthy or imbalanced. Parents also expressed a need to know more about what students were doing online, both at school and at home. They wanted to know how the school was supporting students to recognize and manage their digital footprints. Teachers needed support to handle and make the most of the increasing amount of technology that was entering the classroom, both from the district and from students.

Align to initiatives

SFUSD has developed their digital citizenship implementation in different ways over the years, broken down into three phases. While Phase I of the district's implementation used standalone, targeted instruction to boost students' digital citizenship skills, Phases II and III sought to explicitly align digital citizenship with existing priorities in the district.

Phase II focused on Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and Common Core standards alignment. Depending on the specific classes where technology was in use, SFUSD sought to integrate digital citizenship into the standards that already guided those classes.

Phase III added an additional layer to the implementation, targeting site-based social emotional learning (SEL) and positive behavior intervention system (PBIS) programs as containers for particular digital citizenship skill sets, including Relationships & Communication and Cyberbullying, Digital Drama, & Hate Speech.

Get buy-in from key stakeholders

SFUSD solicits buy-in from its teachers and schools mainly through its Digital Learning Facilitator (DLeaF) program, which allows school sites to have autonomy in terms of how and when digital citizenship is implemented. These site-based DLeaFs are able to create a plan that is responsive to individual teachers, allowing them to have a voice in how digital citizenship is actualized in their particular classrooms. The district also celebrates teachers and schools when they achieve Common Sense recognition, which is additional incentive for stakeholders. 


Teach students 

SFUSD has prioritized Common Sense recognition for its schools and teachers, and thus follows the requirements for recognition around teaching students. Schools tend to use the Core Subject Embedded model of implementation.  

In grades K-12, students receive at least three digital citizenship lessons in the school year. Schools have the autonomy to decide when and where the lessons are taught. Lessons tend to focus on Media Balance & Well-Being in the lower grades and on Relationships & Communication and Cyberbullying, Digital Drama, & Hate Speech in the upper grades. 

Train educators

SFUSD has successfully trained over 250 teachers at over 90 schools across their district on implementing digital citizenship into their classrooms.

Teacher training takes place at each school site and is facilitated through the DLeaF program. DLeaFs are chosen by their principals to receive district training and to coordinate a variety of aspects related to devices and technology at the site, including device management and maintenance, personalized learning practices, and digital citizenship. DLeaFs work closely with the district's digital citizenship coordinator, Dan Frost, to stay up to date on the latest research trends and educator resources related to digital citizenship.

Training is also built into each school site's teacher collaboration structure, as all learning strands are required to have a digital citizenship component. Schools also utilize Digital Learning Day and Digital Citizenship Week to have teachers share best practices for teaching digital citizenship.

Engage families

Over the past few years, SFUSD parents have become increasingly concerned with how the district is addressing and preventing cyberbullying and digital drama issues with students. In addition, parents continue to ask principals and teachers about the different types of digital media their children are exposed to, and which ones really have learning value and are appropriate.

To address these concerns, the district offers a number of parent events each year at each site. These events utilize Common Sense Education's Family Engagement Resources and other resources, such as screening licenses to showcase the film Screenagers

Parents also can access a dedicated SFUSD webpage with parent resources, and they also receive Family Tip Sheets and Family Activities from classroom teachers as the lessons are taught. In some instances, parents also receive support through DotCom, the district monthly tech newsletter.

Lastly, the district has identified additional channels and opportunities to engage parents, including text campaigns during Digital Citizenship Week and Digital Learning Day and through student e-portfolios.


Define and measure impact

SFUSD measures success through their school and district's progress toward the Common Sense Recognition Program. In addition, they assess qualitative assessments, including a collection of artifacts and student work from each school site. 

Celebrate achievements

Each year SFUSD celebrates the work of educators and schools across the district by highlighting their cultures of digital citizenship. There are three major professional development events that the district hosts to celebrate digital citizenship achievements: Digital Learning Day, Digital Citizenship Week, and a year-end student e-portfolio celebration.

SFUSD also recently issued a press release to celebrate achieving Common Sense District recognition. District Superintendent Dr. Vincent Mathews has also highlighted the district's digital citizenship work in his public communications.

Reflect on progress

SFUSD continues to analyze the success and impact of its digital citizenship implementation and to look for areas of refinement. Specific areas of consideration include: how best to integrate digital citizenship with social emotional learning (SEL) and how best to motivate schools and teachers to achieve, and holding them accountable for achieving, Common Sense Recognition. They also are working on identifying metrics for behaviors and attitudes and putting into place a more systematic and structured approach to identifying and responding to parent concerns.